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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Michigan' Category


28
Jun

Manslaughter Charges Filed by State AG Against Officials for Flint, MI Water Poisoning

(Beyond Pesticides, June 28, 2017) In a move that could portend broader action in the case of environmental crimes, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed charges of involuntary manslaughter against five state officials in a death resulting from Flint’s water crisis. While most criminal charges resulting from environmental mishaps and disasters are filed against corporations or their CEOs, one law review article notes, “Prosecutors have become aggressive in seeking out responsible parties. The net of criminal liability is no longer limited to those directly involved in causing the disaster, but may now extend to those involved in the response, as well as officials whose derelictions in office helped create the risk.” In announcing the charges, the Attorney General stated, “All defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter are charged in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, of Mt. Morris, Michigan. Skidmore died of Legionnaires’ disease after many others had been diagnosed with the illness, yet no public outbreak notice had been issued. The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint’s water system.” Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or a $7,500 […]

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14
Jun

Local Restaurants Launch Campaign to Protect Pollinators during National Pollinator Week

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2016) To celebrate National Pollinator Week, June 20-26, 2016, several Washington, DC restaurants have teamed up with Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety to launch a campaign, “Made by Pollinators,” to protect pollinators suffering steep declines. With one out of every three bites of food reliant on bees, the participating restaurants’ patrons will be treated to a special menu featuring pollinator-friendly food and provided with information on what they can do to help pollinators. The restaurants hope to increase public awareness on the importance of pollinators and steps that can be taken to reverse the decline. Participating  restaurants include Busboys and Poets, Founding Farmers, Lavagna, the Tabard Inn and Restaurant Nora. Of the 100 crop varieties that provide 90% of the world’s food, 71 are pollinated by bees. Honey bees alone pollinate 95 kinds of fruits, nuts and vegetables, such as apples, avocados, almonds, and cranberries. The value of pollination services to U.S. agriculture alone amounts to nearly $30 billion and about 80% of flowering plants require animal pollination. A recent government survey reports that U.S. beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies between spring 2015 and 2016 —the second highest loss to date. […]

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27
Jul

Legislative Proposal for Voluntary Action Fails to Protect Great Lakes from Toxic Runoff

(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2015) Two Michigan Representatives have introduced the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act (HR 3120) in an effort to halt the pollution of the Great Lakes and other waterways by protecting them from agricultural run-off, which causes dangerous algae blooms ­. While the proposed legislation aims to reduce the effects of pesticides in water, the bill still allows the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and is only a voluntary measure, something that environmentalists says falls short. The bill is sponsored by Candice Miller (R-MI) and co-sponsored by Tim Walberg (R-MI). The bill aims to mimic the state program Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). Adopted in 1999, the MAEAP is a voluntary three-phase program that provides “on-farm verification to ensure the farmer has implemented environmentally sound practices.” This raises two concerns: lack of incentive for farmers to join the program and ambiguous language defining what environmentally sound means. The results of MAEAP are the driving force in the fight for federal Great Lakes legislation, but those numbers do not necessarily speak for themselves. A major goal of the MAEAP is the Farmstead System which, “focuses primarily on protecting surface and ground water” through the safe […]

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15
Jun

DDT Still Pervasive in Small Michigan Town

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2015) A community in central Michigan is still dealing with the fallout of a pesticide company that produced DDT nearly half a century ago. St. Louis, MI, a city about one hour north of the state capital Lansing, has long dealt with contamination left behind by the Velsicol Chemical Corporation, which manufactured pesticides in the town until 1963, when it left  and  abandoned loads of DDT in its wake. DDT, known for accumulating in food webs and persisting for decades in soil and river sediment, was banned in the U.S.  in 1972, but problems associated with its prevalent use until that time still plague the community to this day. This situation  has led to a multi-million dollar clean-up effort at taxpayers’ expense  by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). EPA took control of the Velsicol plant as a Superfund site in 1982, but decades-long delays in the cleanup of the old chemical factory have left songbirds, and potentially people at risk nearly thirty years later. After years of complaints from residents, researchers  recently reported  that robins and other birds are dropping dead from DDT poisoning. The dead robins and other […]

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31
Oct

USDA To Provide Additional $4 million for Honey Bee Habitat, No Mention of Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 31, 2014) Without any mention of the role of pesticides in bee decline, or emphasis on organic practices to help pollinators, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees. The announcement renews and expands on a $3 million pilot investment last spring to create pollinator-friendly habitat in five Midwestern states. The effort responds to the Presidential Memorandum, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs. The Memorandum, issued at the close of National Pollinator Week 2014, directed federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and tasked agency leads at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days that supports and fosters pollinator habitat. “The future of America’s food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Vilsack said. “Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health […]

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07
Aug

Legacy of DDT Still Poisoning Birds and People in Michigan

(Beyond Pesticides, August 7, 2014) Residents of St. Louis, Michigan aren’t used to seeing large excavators and dump trucks haul piles of dirt from their front yards or entire blocks of big, neighborhood trees felled. What they are used to seeing are dead birds ””sometimes even spontaneous, mid-flight deaths of the birds”” and because of a toxic series of events, disasters, and delays spanning decades, the two sights are inextricably connected. As one St. Louis resident described to the Detroit Free Press, dozens of dead robins and blackbirds had been collected from her backyard in the 18 years she has lived there, with the most recent just a couple weeks ago. This experience and other similar stories from the area prompted researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) to start figuratively and literally digging. Matt Zwiernik, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist at MSU, and volunteers collected 29 dead birds, including 22 robins, last year from a nine-block residential area in St. Louis. The scientific sampling was only a small portion of the dead birds they could have collected, Dr. Zwiernik explained to reporters at the Detroit Free Press, as time, distance, logistics, and access to property sometimes limited collection efforts. Nevertheless, it […]

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30
Jun

Pesticide Production Leaves a Legacy of Poisoning and Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, June 30, 2014) Decades later there are still horrifying impacts from a legacy of dumping in the environment tens of thousands of pounds of chemical waste used in the production of pesticides. The production  by the Hooker Chemical Company of C-56, the progenitor of many now banned organochlorine pesticides, has resulted in contamination and hardship. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for the elimination of hazardous synthetic pesticides, due to unnecessary risks that put the health of both people and entire communities in jeopardy. Long after the Depression Era in Montague, MI, there were still many families who were left jobless and looking for any means to bring back a better life. The town decided to stimulate the local economy by recruiting Hooker Electrochemical Company; a chemical manufacturer originally based in New York, where it had been using an old canal bed for disposal of waste in the 1940s and was looking for a new site to build a chlor-alkali plant. Ninety-six percent of local residents signed the petition to bring them in. The situation was perfect for Hooker, which needed the vast underground reserves of salt and the lake water in the town for cooling during its industrial […]

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14
Mar

EPA Funding Integrated Pest Management at Schools

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week  three grants to universities in Texas, Michigan, and Arizona to implement integrated pest management (IPM) practices, reigniting the debate on whether pesticide dependency in many, if not most, IPM systems is warranted given techniques that have eliminated  toxic pesticide use. Are these programs moving pest management in the right direction, as strong IPM measures offer the opportunity to eliminate the use of pesticides, or is the IPM systems unnecessarily using pesticides that can be replaced by  management practices that exclude pest entryways, adopt sanitation and cleaning practices to eliminate pest conducive conditions, and when necessary, as a last resort, use carefully defined least-toxic chemicals. One of the grants, awarded to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, will be utilized to develop a central, online source for materials  providing school districts with important information and tools to implement an IPM program. The project’s goal within the three year  grant  period  is to reach  one percent of schools  or 552,350 students of the estimated 49 million children attending U.S. public schools in 15,000 school districts. Another grant was awarded to University of Arizona, with the goal of developing and implementing […]

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04
Mar

USDA Seeks to Increase Pollinator Habitat without Focus on Pesticides and GE

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2014) The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently committed to providing financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in five Midwestern states to improve and create bee-friendly habitat. This project comes as American beekeepers have continued to experience rapid colony declines with losses over the winter over 30 percent per year. The creation of pollinator-friendly habitat is an important step to slowing pollinator losses, however this project does not challenge the expansion of agriculture into current pollinator habitat, the use of systemic pesticides that are linked to pollinator decline, or the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops with elevated use of herbicides that kill habitat. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide $3 million in technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to create and improve bee friendly habitat in five Midwestern states. Ranchers can qualify for assistance to reseed pastures with alfalfa, clover and other plants that bees forage.  NRCS will also assist ranchers in building fences, installing water tanks and other changes to better move cattle between pastures so as not to wear down vegetation. Farmers can also qualify for funds to plant cover crops, and bee friendly forage in boarders and […]

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18
Apr

Climate Change Augments Agricultural Chemical Impacts on Lake Erie

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2013) With hotter and more frequent extreme weather events, scientists say harmful algal blooms caused by pesticides and fertilizer inputs will strike more often in water bodies like Lake Erie, to the detriment of aquatic life and surrounding wildlife. All trends, show that the conditions that caused Lake Erie’s 2011 algal blooms will continue recurring. The algal blooms, which cause bright green scum that completely covers the Western part of Lake Erie, occurs from mid-July to October, in part because of farming practices surrounding the Lake and in part due to climate change. Ecologist Thomas Bridgeman, Ph.D.  at the University of Toledo contributed to these findings in this month’s publication of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science entitled “Record-setting algal blooms in Lake Erie caused by meteorological trends consistent with expected future conditions. “The 2011 bloom was a catastrophe. But it could become the new normal if we don’t do anything” said Dr. Bridgeman. Importantly, the study concludes that “long-term trends in agricultural practices are consistent with increasing phosphorus loading to the western basin of the lake, and that these trends, coupled with meteorological conditions in spring 2011, produced record-breaking nutrient loads.” In short, […]

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25
Jan

Apple Growers Request Use of Unregistered Pesticide, Public Comments Needed

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2012) Apple growers in Michigan are seeking a Section 18 emergency exemption from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an unregistered pesticide to curb fire blight on 10,000 acres of apples trees that are susceptible to a deadly disease. Even though Section 18 exemptions from federal pesticide law are only to be used in ”˜emergency conditions,’ this request has been petitioned and granted over the past three years, leading to questions on the of the “emergency” that triggered the section 18 exemption request. In December 2011, the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) asked EPA to grant the use of the antibiotic, kasugamycin, to control streptomycin-resistant strains of Erwinia amylovora, the causal pathogen of fire blight, maintaining that there are no available chemical alternatives and effective control practices. The agency has requested comments until February 6, 2012 at www.regulations.gov, docket number EPA—HQ—OPP—2011—1016. Kasugamycin is not registered for use in the U.S. under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), but has import tolerances for residues on food imported. Fire blight has been on the increase in Michigan orchards and other states for the past few springs due to resistance the disease has to current treatments. […]

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05
Aug

EPA, DOJ Reach Settlement With Dow Over Midland Plant

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last week that Dow Chemical Company (Dow) has agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty to settle violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at its chemical manufacturing and research complex in Midland, Michigan. In addition to paying a penalty, Dow will implement a comprehensive program to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from leaking equipment, such as valves and pumps. These emissions —known as fugitive emissions because they are not discharged from a stack, but rather leak directly from equipment— are generally controlled through work practices, such as monitoring for and repairing leaks. The settlement requires Dow to implement enhanced work practices, including more frequent leak monitoring, better repair practices, and innovative new work practices designed to prevent leaks. In addition, the enhanced program requires Dow to replace valves with new “low emissions” valves or valve packing material, designed to significantly reduce the likelihood of future leaks of VOCs and HAPs. Past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions, and incineration at the Midland plant […]

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25
May

Senate Considers Eliminating CWA Protections from Pesticides, Act Now

(Beyond Pesticides, May 25, 2011) Legislation, already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, that would allow pesticides to be sprayed into water without a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, is now being weighed by the U.S. Senate (S. 718). The Western Farm Press recently reported that Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is holding up the bill while she discusses it with EPA and USDA. But, the bill is expected to move quickly and the time to act is now. Beyond Pesticides encourages individuals and organizations tell their Senators that regulating pesticides under the CWA is necessary to protect our waterways, public health, fish, and wildlife, and therefore, they must oppose S. 718. Michigan residents: Please call Senator Stabenow, thank her for delaying the legislation and ask her to oppose S. 718. Please call both your district office and Washington, DC. Upper Peninsula Office: (906) 228-8756 Northern Michigan Office: (231) 929-1031 Flint/Saginaw Bay Office: (810) 720-4172 Southeast Michigan Office: (313) 961-4330 Mid-Michigan Office: (517) 203-1760 Western Michigan Office: (616) 975-0052 Washington, DC Office: (202) 224-4822 All other U.S. residents: Please call your U.S. Senators and tell them to oppose S. 718. If you know your […]

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02
Aug

High Cost of Environment Related Childhood Diseases Estimated in MI

(Beyond Pesticides, Aug 2, 2010) A new report conducted by an Ann Arbor, Michigan based coalition of health and environmental groups estimates that children’s exposure to toxic chemicals, including pesticides, cost Michigan billions of dollars each year. The study examines the costs associated with four environmentally related childhood diseases: lead poisoning, asthma, pediatric cancer, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Treating these four disorders costs the state of Michigan an average of $5.85 billion annually. The study, “The Price of Pollution: Cost Estimates of Environment-Related Childhood Disease in Michigan” was released in time for the US House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, an overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Using conservative estimates researchers consider direct costs such as medical treatment, as well as less direct costs such as parent wage losses. The study also notes the substantial emotional costs to families dealing with these potentially life threatening or debilitating conditions which cannot be quantified. Lead poisoning is found to be the most costly of the diseases studied, costing on average $4.85 billion annually, followed by childhood asthma, pediatric cancer, and neurodevelopmental disorders. These four disorders alone cost the state of Michigan 1.5% […]

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11
Mar

Dioxin Clean-Up Negotiations With Dow Chemical Company Now Open to Public

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2009) The new administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, has put discussions with Dow Chemical Co. concerning dioxin contamination on hold, citing a need to have the process open and transparent. Negotiations with the industry giant began in the mid-1990s over how to clean-up dioxin contamination along 50 miles of rivers and floodplains of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay watershed in Michigan. Dow has long been accused of moving too slowly to restore the polluted watershed. Ms. Jackson announced her decision last week in a letter to environmental activists involved with the issue. She also stated that a team of high-ranking officials from her office would meet shortly with activist groups, as well as representatives of Dow and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The letter states that the EPA’s regional office in Chicago would not participate in further negotiations until her team has reported back after its meetings in Michigan. The meetings are expected to take place next week. “My goal is to ensure an expeditious and robust cleanup, and I will take steps to ensure that the dioxin contamination is addressed in a manner that is protective of human health […]

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02
Jun

Michigan Neighborhood Contaminated with Dioxin, Dow Blamed

(Beyond Pesticides, June 2, 2008) Residential properties in Saginaw, Michigan contain unacceptably high levels of dioxin contamination, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5. Soil from the Riverside Boulevard area, a neighborhood along the Lower Tittabawassee River and downstream from the Dow Chemical Company’s manufacturing plant, was recently sampled and analyzed by EPA and evaluated in collaboration with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Michigan Department of Community Health. Past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions and incineration at the plant have resulted in on- and off-site contamination of nearby waterways. Dow’s manufacturing of chlorine-based products and other chemicals results in dioxins, as well as furans, chlorobenzenes and heavy metals, as byproducts. According to the Chicago Tribune, soil samples “from one yard was 23 times higher than what the EPA considers reasonable safe.” Former administrator for EPA’s Region 5, Mary Gade, had been aggressively pushing Dow to properly cleanup the area, until she was forced out, states the Chicago Tribune. Dow’s previous dioxin cleanup of the 300 residences included cleaning inside the homes and laying wood chips over the contaminated soil around the homes, which is believed to be ineffective in protecting people and wildlife from dioxin […]

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16
May

Michigan House Approves Restrictions on Lindane

(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2008) Pressured by environmental organizations to protect children’s health and water quality in the Great Lakes, the Michigan House of Representatives has approved restrictions on the use of lindane, a toxic organochlorine pesticide used as a prescription drug to treat lice and scabies.  Under the legislation (HB 4569), the use of lindane  would be  prohibited except “under the supervision of a physician in his or her office if the physician considers the use of that product necessary for the treatment of a patient’s lice or scabies.” The Michigan Senate has not yet voted on the bill. Lindane has long been known for its neurotoxic properties, causing seizures, damage to the nervous system, and weakening of the immune system. It is also a probable carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. When used on people, lindane is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Despite the fact that it has been banned in 52 countries and restricted in over 30 more, FDA continues to allow its use in the U.S., albeit with a Public Health Advisory issued in 2003 that states, “Lindane should be used with caution in infants, children, the elderly, patients with skin conditions, and patients with […]

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11
Jan

Cleanup Negotiations Between Dow and EPA Break Down

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2008) Talks between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Dow Chemical Company ended unsuccessfully when EPA determined that Dow’s offers were not comprehensive enough. Negotiations had centered around study and interim cleanup measures in the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers, wetlands, and Saginaw Bay. Dow agreed in July to clean up dioxin contamination downstream of its Midland, Michigan facility, but this time Dow spokesman John C. Musser said, “They were asking us to go beyond what we thought was reasonable, and we could not with our earlier offers resolve that dispute.” EPA plans to return to negotiations, but the latest round was not progressing successfully. “Key issues that are paramount for protecting human health and the environment remain unsolved,” said Ralph Dollhopf, associate director for the Superfund Division of EPA’s Region 5 Office in Chicago. “EPA simply will not accept any deal that is not comprehensive.” EPA spokeswoman Anne Rowan added, “We’re not walking away from cleaning up the river system. We walked away from negotiations that we thought were not fruitful.” The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has worked with Dow to ensure completion of the required cleanup, and these latest developments seem par for […]

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20
Jul

Dow To Clean Up Michigan Dioxin Hot Spots

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2007) Dow Chemical Company has reached agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin cleanup of dioxin contamination downstream of its Midland, Michigan facility immediately. The teratogenic (i.e. ability to cause developmental malformations) and mutagenic compounds are not only byproducts of manufacturing processes but are contained in one of Dow’s most used herbicides. Last November, Dow identified dioxin hot spots along the Tittabawassee River, but corrective action “has taken too long” according to an EPA press release. “EPA has documented that dioxin contamination in soil poses risks to human health and the environment.” Dioxins are a family of chemicals that have been linked to cancer, weakened immune systems and reproductive problems. Terry Miller, a member of Lone Tree Council, an environmental group, told the Saginaw News that EPA’s decision confirmed his suspicions that Dow was “dragging their feet” in the cleanup efforts. “There’s been a lot of print suggesting the state has been too hard on the company when it appeared that Dow was being too slow,” he said. “The federal government would seem to support that contention.” Michelle Hurd-Riddick, a spokeswoman for the Lone Tree Council, was quoted by the Saginaw News saying that […]

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